Restaurant Review: Ginger pink and wasabi green

Ubiquitous but not equal, sushi joints - Tamago included - have turned up all over Jerusalem's residential areas.

sushi 88 (photo credit: )
sushi 88
(photo credit: )
My brother was seven years old when he first tasted sushi at the local YMCA's Japan Day. He instantly liked it. To this day he frequents sushi bars and legally samples the sake. The California roll was his favorite back then and now he is into spicy tuna, spider rolls and rolls fried in tempura coating. I take credit for introducing him to this Asian treat, which is also a favorite of mine. He now lives in San Francisco, city of sushi galore. I reside in Jerusalem where, in a matter of months, sushi availability has gone from non-existent to everywhere. Tamago Sushi is housed on the corner of a Rehov Yonatan - perpendicular to Emek Refaim - set back from the main street, with gate access to both wheelchairs and strollers. As a sushi restaurant, it faces a local contender as close as a few blocks away. For me proximity often influences my patronage and Tamago is the closer to my apartment so I have been there several times. The décor is minimalist but the food is fresh. And with raw fish, you can't go with second best. When I visited Tamago (named for the thin Japanese omelet) with my dining friend, owners Hadar and Shimon Levy told us a bit about their passion for Japanese cuisine. Suprisingly we learned that in Japan it is not uncommon to find canned tuna as filler for a sushi roll. The Levys encourage their chefs to try out new sushi combinations and as the dishes are perfected, new menu items are added. Just over a year old, Tamago recently added chicken to their previously-parve menu, which features appetizers, noodle dishes, combination sushi rolls and business lunch served from noon to 4 p.m. We were told how some customers rave about their spring chicken flambé. We thought it an interesting idea; but the taste was propellant-like and we did not finish the portion. The accompanying rice was nice, though overpriced at NIS 10 a bowl. Tamago does offer up great starters including the ramen noodle soup (NIS 29) with mushrooms and chunks of pink salmon. Hands down. my favorite is the salmon yakitori glazed in their house special teriyaki sauce (NIS 37) served on wooden skewers. The sushi is fresh and colorful but falls a bit short on taste and design. First, sushi's flavor should shine in its own sushi spotlight - without the ginger and wasabi accoutrements. This was not always the case leaving us generally underwhelmed. My dining friend and I really loved the caterpillar roll (NIS 42) but felt that this special roll, as well as the salmon skin roll (NIS 24), required soy sauce and green horseradish paste to accentuate the flavors. One of the things I tend to avoid are low-fat, low-cal and "lite" items. Usually those types of foods use filler ingredients more harmful than the extra calories in the real thing. Low sodium, on the other hand, does ring my bell. The green topped soy sauce bottle from Kikkoman professes a third less sodium than its red topped counterpart. Both are available at Tamago. Other menu items worth trying are the Jasmine tea, and for a real sweet, gooey ending, the ice maki - an "ice cream" roll with tempura coating and chocolate syrup. It is pure carnival style fun. If only they had red bean or green tea ice cream. Now that summer is here diners can enjoy outdoor seating in the walled courtyard and is good for one of my beloved pasttimes, people watching. Tamago Sushi - 48 Emek Refaim; (077) 515-0140 is open Sun.-Thur. from noon-11 p.m. and Fri. from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Sat. during the summer; kosher. Takeout and Deliveries available. The writer was a guest of the restaurant.